The weekends are extra special in Hanoi, arriving here on a Saturday could not be more perfect. The central lake by the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem, is closed to motorised traffic and the city definitely takes advantage of it. The colours and sounds of the weekend night markets stand out and draw the crowds, offering all manner of product. Smells of street food BBQs flood the air, enticing tourist and local alike, while overflowing carts of fresh fruit make their way along the street.
Walking down from the weekend market and joining the milling crowds by the lake, the sounds of street performers take over. Making our way around the lake, entrapped audiences surround performing dance troupes, contrasting the elderly gentlemen, who perched on tiny stools by the water’s edge, play various traditional instruments with calm faces and skilled hands.
With a constant flow of human subjects and the beautiful lights and greenery providing attractive subjects, the lake scenes draw keen photographers.
The city is full of beautiful traditional and modern restaurants offering every variety one could want, but Hanoi street food is something not to be missed! Stopping by a local option with a yellow frontage and settling on the little plastic stools (a very common option in the Old Quarter). The only thing on the menu is Bahn Mi – this Vietnamese delight is famous for a reason! Beautifully baked bread, crunchy and soft, filled with your choice of many options, the most popular being barbequed or stewed pork, along with fresh herbs and chilli. The tastes are wonderful and suit the vibe of the passing street traffic perfectly. A second helping for the road is always a good option!
The surrounding area contains an abundance of rooftop bars, one in particular situated on the Hanoi Pearl Hotel where we are staying, offers fantastic views of the Old Quarter but most importantly Hoan Kiem, the lake alight with the reflections of the cities vibrant but friendly night life. Sitting down to a local Bia Ha Noi or one of the myriad cocktail options, filled with local fresh fruit, is the perfect way to watch the city and the night go by.
The Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem are the beating heart of the city, especially on the weekend and hours can be spent simply taking it all in.
Thanks for reading!